When people within the roller derby community talk about surviving a tournament, we are often referring to skaters or officials, the ones who are most active during these weekend-long events. But with tournament season starting earlier and earlier, we thought it best to provide a survival guide to roller derby fans. So, before you head to the Big O, ECDX, Mayhem, or any of the other looming derby events, let’s make sure your best plan is in place!
1. Know what you’re getting into
Each tournament has different challenges, benefits, and rules. Knowing how your tournament will be handled is important to starting your weekend off right. Most tournaments have a Facebook Events page. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for about an event, post a question on the page or you directly message the team on Facebook. As you plan for the event, you may want to pose some questions to the host league, such as:
1. Is there a specific host hotel for the event?
2. What are the ticket prices for the event?
3. Are there chairs at the venue, or are people encouraged to bring their own?
4. Is there free parking nearby? Is there public transportation to the venue?
5. Can you bring food and drinks to the venue?
and finally: Will alcohol be sold?
Remember: forewarned is forearmed. (Though, not the kind that will get you 30 seconds in the penalty box.)
Just because you aren’t jumping apexes, hurtling yourself through blockers, or plow-stopping with an incredibly talented jammer on your back, doesn’t mean you can skip keeping yourself hydrated. If allowed, bring a refillable water bottle to the venue. (The Big O already posted about their water refilling stations!) With how exciting an entire weekend’s worth of roller derby action can be, it is easy to forget how many hours have passed by, and how long it has been since you’ve had anything to drink. Treat your body right and avoid becoming dehydrated, so you can last all day cheering on your team.
3. Keep from getting “hangry”
Some tournaments have such great games that our minds forget that our bodies need nourishment, and then the angriness of hunger strikes. If the venue allows outside food in, make sure to bring some healthy snacks so that your stomach doesn’t demand you stop watching an incredible game just to run up to the snack stand. If the venue doesn’t allow snacks from outside, have a filling breakfast, and plan for snack breaks at concessions or nearby restaurants outside the building.
4. Location, Location, Location
Typically, most action in roller derby happens between the jammer line and turn 2, so all along the first apex, there is some wonderful real estate to capture some of the best moments of the game. Depending on the popularity of the tournament and the venue’s setup, get to the venue early to set up camp for a long day of great derby. If you’re at a multiple track event, consider going to the game before the one you most want to see. This way, you can settle in well in advance of the game and beat the rush of people looking for spots to sit just before it begins.
5. Location, Location, Location (part 2)
Knowing where the venue is, and what is around it, can make a roller derby tournament go much more smoothly. What local restaurants or diners are open late nearby? Where is the local supermarket? Where is the nearest CVS/Rite-Aid/Walgreens? Having a working knowledge of the area will make unexpected bumps in the road much easier to deal with.
6. What to Take Away
Roller derby tournaments can have fantastic merchandise and some terrific gear and skate company booths. Decide how much you are willing to spend at a tournament before you get there, so as to keep your eyes from being bigger than your bank account. For tournament merch, consider shopping early, so that items that have a very limited supply aren’t gone before you have a chance to take one home. For gear and skates, definitely visit all of the booths, so that you can be as well-informed as possible before making an investment. Revisit merch booths at the end of the weekend as well, sometimes you can get discounted shirts from people who don’t want to travel home with a bunch of extra stuff.
Also to take away: all of the fun you have with friends and family at the tournament, all of the notes on strategy you have written, all of the stories you have to tell, and of course, all of the love for this sport heightened by another great tournament!